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by via Parmenides
Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003 at 1:04 PM
Day three of US media coverage of Hussein's capture: no let-up in the
By David Walsh
17 December 2003
The hysteria of the American media's coverage of the capture of Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein and its aftermath shows no signs of letting up. On
the contrary, having failed so far to contaminate the public at large
with its own bloodlust, the media has lost all sense of restraint, not
to mention decency.
Talk of "killing" and "torture" and "death" fills the airwaves and
newspaper columns. An epidemic of homicidal rage seems to have overtaken
the entire media. No one, it seems is immune. Even the ever so proper
Diane Rehm of National Public Radio, who is often heard discoursing on
such topics as the proper way to cultivate roses in New England, devoted
her Tuesday morning show to an examination of the best way to dispose of
Hussein. Among her guests was Henry Kissinger, who, perhaps because of
his own checkered past, seemed less enthusiastic about the death penalty
for the Iraqi leader than Ms. Rehm.
The American media has made much of the miserable conditions to which
Hussein had been reduced after months of eluding his pursuers-a hole in
the ground barely large enough to lie down in. He was not even able to
communicate by telephone.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat from West Virginia and vice chairman
of the Senate Intelligence Committee, conceded, "Given the location and
circumstances of his capture, it makes it clear that Saddam was not
managing the insurgency, and that he had very little control or
influence. That is significant and disturbing because it means the
insurgents are not fighting for Saddam, they're fighting against the
Indeed, there has been no decline in the number of attacks on US forces
and Iraqi collaborators, despite the claim that the country's
nationalist resistance has lost its unifying "symbol." The last is a
dubious assertion at best. Numerous analysts have pointed out that, on
the contrary, many Iraqis were hesitant about joining the opposition to
US occupation lest they be tarred with the "pro-Hussein" brush.
Iraqis and American soldiers continue to die. In an incident reminiscent
of a massacre on November 30-during which US forces blasted away
indiscriminately in Samarra's center, killing an undetermined number of
civilian bystanders-American troops killed 11 "Saddam loyalists" in the
same city on December 15. One must assume the claim that insurgents used
a group of children leaving school "as a cover" means that the military
was preparing a defense if and when dead innocents were found lying on
the ground. A US soldier died when a convoy was struck by a roadside
bomb north of Baghdad Tuesday; three more Americans were wounded in an
explosion in Tikrit.
The American media coverage of the Hussein arrest, so heavy-handed, so
"over the top," contains a pathological element. It becomes more
unrestrained in proportion to the lack of response, except in the most
depraved and disoriented quarters. Whatever political and even moral
confusion may and certainly does exist in America, it is clear that the
capture of Saddam Hussein did not send some electrical charge surging
through the population.
The general reaction in the US has been benumbed indifference. No one
capable of thinking believes that the seizure of Hussein changes
anything, either in Iraq or in America.
The sheer weight of the media barrage indicates an element of
resistance. The voices become shriller and shriller as they fail to find
the desired audience reaction. The propaganda campaign has failed to
break down resentment and suspicion in the US. Popular skepticism is
proving "a tough nut to crack."
Hussein's capture is presented as somehow justifying the entire illegal
invasion and occupation of Iraq. But the war was "sold" to the
population as the only defense against the Iraqi regime's weapons of
mass destruction (WMD). None have been found, and it is widely
understood that this was merely a cynical propaganda ploy.
The course of the war has discredited every claim and argument of the
American media and political establishment-about WMD, about the
Iraqi-Al-Qaeda connection, about the desire of the Iraqi people to be
"liberated" by US cruise missiles and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The media and the government may turn a blind eye to the consequences of
all this, but it has had an impact on public consciousness. Even if one
takes the official poll figures seriously, more than 40 percent of the
population opposes the war.
Wide layers of the American population intuitively "smell" something
corrupt and dirty about the Iraq war; they sense that this is a conflict
about oil and big money, launched by and for Bush and his friends in
corporate America. Many know about US-Iraqi relations in the 1980s,
including Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Hussein in December 1983 as a
representative of Ronald Reagan. Hussein was one of those "friends" of
the US who later fell afoul of its geopolitical ambitions.
When Hitler or Mussolini met their fates, there was genuine popular
celebration around the globe. These were individuals perceived as
ferocious enemies of democracy and working people. Saddam Hussein, the
dictator of a small, underdeveloped country, simply does not belong in
the same category.
Despite the efforts of the media to lie about and conceal all the
critical facts, the truth-or portions of it-has seeped through to a
certain section of the population. And the general conditions of
economic hardship for millions, made more painful by the knowledge that
the super-rich are living like never before, have fatally undermined
patriotic blind faith in America.
The media coverage is as sick, ugly and vindictive as the individual who
resides in the White House.
George W. Bush's comments at his celebratory press conference Monday
were stupid and false, as one would expect. He bid "good riddance" to
Hussein and announced, "The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam
Hussein. And I find it very interesting that when the heat got on you
dug yourself a hole and you crawled in it. And our brave troops,
combined with good intelligence, found you. And you'll be brought to
justice, something you did not afford the people you brutalized in your
In terms of human personality types, is Bush, the bully, moral weakling
and sadist, superior to the former Iraqi president? Indeed, as a social
type-the spoiled and incompetent rich kid whose "success" has depended
entirely on family background and personal connection-Bush is not all
that different than the corrupt elements within the Iraqi ruling circles
who formed part of Hussein's personal entourage, including his now dead
sons. The circumstances of their political careers were different, and
Bush now has more battalions on his side. Other than that...
The US president called Hussein "a deceiver, he's a liar." But who is
Hussein claimed that Iraq had no WMD and no connection to Osama bin
Laden. On this question, he was telling the truth. On the other hand,
George W. Bush on March 8, 2003, in his weekly radio broadcast,
declared: "Iraqi's dictator has made a public show of producing and
destroying a few prohibited missiles. Yet, our intelligence shows that
even as he is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the
continued production of the very same type of missiles. Iraqi operatives
continue to play a shell game with inspectors, moving suspected
prohibited materials to different locations every 12 to 24 hours. And
Iraqi weapons scientists continue to be threatened with harm should they
cooperate in interviews with UN inspectors."
Bush was lying, and he knew it, along with everyone else in his criminal
regime. Only days before the invasion was launched, on March 15, the US
president claimed, "We know from prior weapons inspections that Saddam
has failed to account for vast quantities of biological and chemical
agents, including mustard agent, botulinum toxin and sarin, capable of
killing millions of people. We know the Iraqi regime finances and
sponsors terror. And we know the regime has plans to place innocent
people around military installations to act as human shields."
The gloating response of the American establishment to the Hussein
capture reveals a great deal. Contained in the repellent and
unrestrained reaction is a great deal of accumulated frustration over
the course of the war, the unexpected difficulties and obstacles,
principal among them Iraqi popular resistance and the lack of enthusiasm
within the American people.
Beyond that, there is the character of the American bourgeoisie, which
is, at heart, thuggish. What was one of the Iraqi president's chief
crimes, after all? That he thumbed his nose at the US, at Bush senior
and junior, and set an example for others to follow. Such things cannot
be forgiven. Trotsky noted nearly 80 years ago: "American imperialism is
in essence ruthlessly rude, predatory, in the full sense of the word,
The line between "legitimate" American business and gangsterism has
become increasingly negligible, to the point that it must now be
measured in microns. The disgraceful hoopla over seizing Hussein tells
us far more about the US elite than it does about either the former
Iraqi president, the ongoing disaster in his country or the geopolitical
situation in the Middle East.
One is obliged to ask: After Hussein, then who? Which foreign leader,
whose name is now unknown to the overwhelming majority of the American
population, is the next candidate for demonization? Against whom will
the vast, ignorant and violent propaganda machine be directed? Which
unhappy nation is next to be "liberated" by tens of thousands of US
troops? One thing is beyond doubt-the plans have already been drawn up.
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